Just when we didn't think media monopolies in Canada could get any worse, Rogers Sportsnet goes and takes over the control of NHL broadcasts rights in the country last week by signing an unheard of 12-year, $5.2 billion deal with the NHL.
This has mostly ousted both TSN and CBC from the NHL broadcast market in Canada, as Rogers outbid TSN, while CBC apparently didn't want to spend taxpayer dollars on such an enormous amount.
TSN will still have the regional rights to some Leafs games into 2015 and Jets game through to 2021, but ultimately TSN (in my opinion the best hockey channel in Canada) will be laying off a lot of its staff due to Rogers' monstrous deal with the NHL. Where's Bob McKenzie going to go? NBC Sports? Fox Sports with Jay Onrait and Dan O'Toole? Heaven help us.
Meanwhile when the CBC found out it lost its NHL rights to Rogers, it scrambled to make a deal with Rogers in order to keep hockey on its airwaves. After all, Hockey Night in Canada is 61 years old, and they weren't about to let Rogers stop such a Canadian tradition.
Unfortunately this deal means that Rogers will control all aspects of Hockey Night in Canada when the new deal kicks in, including content, on-air talent and creative direction. CBC will also lose its monopoly on the Stanley Cup Final as well as Saturday night hockey in Canada, as Rogers can choose to air games on its own channels on Saturdays like CityTV. The CBC will also have to layoff staff because of these changes, they said (although we've all been affirmed that Don Cherry's job is safe).
There are some good things to this blockbuster deal - it basically means Canadian NHL fans will have more of what they love; more hockey and more mobile options than they've ever experienced. There will no longer be blackouts or the regionalization of games, which for years have been a huge pain for everyone, and even NHL players will benefit from the deal, getting half the revenue and seeing an increase in the NHL's salary cap as result.
So what are the bad things to this deal?
Well, for one, Sportsnet (often hailed as having the worst NHL coverage in Canada) will now have almost all of the NHL coverage in Canada. And while it's nice that CBC can still air some games and we can stick to listening to Fort St. John native Jim Hughson on Saturdays, the rest of the country's options are limited to the heavily criticized Sportsnet panels across the country.
It's no secret that the Canadian public isn't in love with Sportsnet's commentators, play-by-play guys and panelists, and now they don't have a choice but to suffer through it for the next 12 years.
Also, without any competition, how can Canadians expect Sportsnet to increase its quality like it promises it will? Sure, they can say this is a game changer and that they're going to showcase "the NHL like never before," but where's the pressure on them to do that if there's no competition?
Sportsnet could easily stay the same if they want, and there's nothing we can do about it because there's no one else to watch, except poor old CBC, who's not even allowed to profit from Hockey Night in Canada anymore. All that goes to Rogers Media, too.
So this can go either way; either Sportsnet brings its A Game from now on and gives fans the quality of programming and commentating people want and saw from TSN, or it says, "too bad, what else are you going to watch?" and stays exactly the same.
Only time will tell.
One thing we do know though for sure? Somewhere out there Gary Bettman is rubbing his hands together and giggling like a little school girl.
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